There could be numerous adjectives used to describe the 2011-12 Duke Men’s Basketball season: exhilarating, frustrating, gripping, surprising, perhaps even disappointing. From a thrilling first place finish in the Maui Invitational Pre-Season Tournament to a heart-breaking first-round exit to Lehigh in the NCAA Tournament, the Blue Devils were an anomaly to the Duke teams of old, often struggling defensively and without a point guard capable of creating offense in late-game situations.
The Blue Devils got off to a great 7-0 start to begin the season, including two resume-boosting wins over the then ranked #15 Michigan Wolverines and #14 Kansas Jayhawks, the eventual National Champion runner-ups. The team was set back by a 20-point drubbing from Ohio State in Columbus, a game that exposed Duke’s defensive flaws but gave the nation a glimpse of Austin Rivers’ incredible offensive talent. The team won their next five games before falling to an upset-minded Temple squad in their final non-conference game of the season. Upon entering conference play, Duke won their first four games before falling at home to both Florida State on a buzzer-beating shot by Michael Snaer, and to Miami in overtime. Duke would go on to win their next seven games, including an 85-84 victory over North Carolina at the Dean Dome in which Rivers hit the iconic shot over the outstretched hand of Tyler Zeller. However, the team would fall on Senior Night to the same North Carolina team by 18 in a game that wasn’t even close. The team floundered in the ACC Tournament, losing to Florida State by 3, assuring them a 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament. The team’s opening round matchup was against Lehigh University, a small private school from Bethlehem, PA, in Greensboro. The Blue Devils struggled defensively to contain Lehigh’s C.J. McCollom, who finished with a game-high 30 points, and Duke shot only 6-26 from three point range resulting in a 75-70 defeat and a first-round exit.